I prefer to go into a shoot with zero expectations and having done little to no research. I’ve found that no matter how much I think I know about what’s going to happen during a particular session – what events are going to unfold, what the scene will look like, what challenges I’ll face – I’m always wrong. And those expectations sometimes cloud my judgment in the moment. So I usually opt to go in cold, knowing that I have the experience to adapt in whatever ways necessary without any problems. And if something does go wrong, it’s not a big deal.

But this was different. Because this was a funeral.

And a funeral is the last place I want to make a misstep. When Stacey messaged me about photographing the funeral of her beloved grandmother, Barbara, I was super conscious of wanting to document this event truthfully but without being a bother in any way. A little research, it seemed, was in order. And so, I reached out to my fellow documentary photographers for guidance. “Wear quiet shoes,” – excellent advice that I never would have thought of. “Dress appropriately.” Yes, of course.

But of all of the advice I received on the topic, one statement stood out above the rest: “Photograph the LOVE.” 

It wasn’t hard to find.

They are such a loving family and it was beautiful to see the strength that they gave each other. The depth of their loss was palpable, so it was good to know that they had plenty of love to help them get through.

And it was a truly lovely service. It began with a memorial near the final resting place of Barbara’s late husband, in a cemetery in Greeley, Colorado on a sunny day in February.

From there, services continued at the Greeley United Methodist Church, where more friends of the family joined in to celebrate Barbara’s life.

I was more anxious than usual to send these photos off - I wanted Stacey to not just love them, but to treasure them always. At the end of the service, Stacey had expressed reluctance at having me share the photos (a request I’m always 100% happy to comply with). However, after seeing the photos, she was happy to give her consent. I hope that in some small way I was able to help her and her family through their pain. At the very least, though, I know that they have each other.

May she rest in peace.